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tv   Hardball Weekend  MSNBC  March 12, 2011 5:00am-5:30am EST

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seismic, let's play ha "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington. leading off tonight, earthquake. some of likes which we've never seen before, a tsunami that
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swept over rural and urban areas with devastating results. the 8.9 quake was the strongest in japanese history, one of the strongest anywhere on record ever. we have the late prst from japa. it led to tsunami warnings but there was no real damage. the battle against unions out there. quote, if we win this battle and the money is not there under the auspices of the unions, certainly what you're going to find is president obama is going to have a much more difficult time getting elected and winning the state of wisconsin. well, there you have it in black and white. look for democrats to use wisconsin as a rallying cry in 2012. also, gas lines from republicans. first barbour suggested president obama engineered price increases in order to get americans to drive small er car and take trains.
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then john boehner blamed the president saying he's blocking energy production. appare apparently mr. boehner never heard of libya. what's behind the latest nons s nonsense? remember, everything republicans say these days is aimed it at the ears of conservative iowa caucus voters next year. and let me finish tonight with how the unions defeat in wisconsin could lead to the comeback of the u.s. labor movement. we start with the earthquake in japan. an nbc news producer based in tokyo. i've been watching your coverage. i've been watching what you had to say about this and all i can tell you, i do see a lot of disaster movies. this looked real and very scary. what was it like? >> reporter: this happened 180 miles authority of tokyo. we felt it all the way down here in tokyo. it was so bad that i couldn't stand. you had to sort of crowd a little bit to not fall down. >> i just saw a picture.
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a picture looking through the windshield of a car, apparently on the streets up there. you know, i remember being through a very mild earthquake in northern california and if you're in a car you don't even feel it. i'm watching that car rocking and rolling, even in a car with shocks and tires you can see the action. you were watching -- tell me what you were doing, what you're going to remember when you tell your grandkids about today and yesterday. >> well, you know, obviously the pictures that have come through the aerial pictures of the tsunami i think everyone is saying that it's not so much the earthquake itself but the tsunami that was generated by this earthquake that's caused this massive destruction. you've probably seen pictures of cars rolling in the water like toys. which sort of shows you the magnitude of the strength of the tsunami. well, let's talk politics, the government. is there a sense at this very early date, only hours from this
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tragedy beginning, that the government, the society of japan, was prepared for this kind of event? >> reporter: you know, i think it's really difficult to be prepared for anything of this magnitude. the prime minister naoto kan left in a helicopter and he'll be visiting, touring the scene near the epicenter. and he has been handling the special task force. less than an hour ago he has ordered residents living near one of the nuclear reactors, have expanded the evacuation from three kilometers to a ten kill kilometer radius. so he has been on top of it for this. >> you know, arata, we look at
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pictures what do they mean to you? the cars going over a little waterfall like in philly by the art museum. cars going over like light toys. they weigh a ton. now going through a town, crashing the village -- the buildings down and moving them like they're all made -- look at these pictures. i don't think steven spielberg could come up with this kind of stuff. this is amazing stuff. >> reporter: it's frightening. the fact that it happened during the daytime, i think, people were able to see we've had large tsunami before. they happen at nighttime and we didn't know, didn't really grasp the strength, saw the destruction, what it left afterwards this time we saw it real time. we saw the waves coming in and the helicopters filming this, as it picked up the cars like toys
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and it just showed the magnitude of the tsunami this earthquake caused. >> now you have a new earthquake that came in overnight. what kind of damage does that do in the west, the western part of the country? >> reporter: yeah, it's totally separate mechanics that caused this earthquake. it registered 6.6. so far we have not heard any injuries from that earthquake. we heard of a report that one wooden building collapsed but so far we have not heard of any injuries. that could change. it's getting light out now, that we might have a better assessment in daylight. >> a look at these pictures for a minute. let's watch these things. i've never seen footage like this. there's actually a peaceful part
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of the country. look at that big hole that big rip. what about the aid coming from americans? do you get a sense -- it's dawn over there, the day after, do you get a sense the americans are coming with aid right now? is that a part of the story right now over there? >> reporter: unfortunately, it's not. not yet. i'm sure they will be needed down the road. right now i think the japanese self-defense force is being mobilized to some of these areas. the first thing that has to be done is have a better assessment of the sense of the damage. that's not even clear yet. communications are down. the japanese military have to fly more choppers to get a bird's eye view of the destruction, find pockets of areas where there might be areas where help is much needed. >> hey, look, great reporting, arata yamamoto. thank you for this reporting. what a memory you're going to have. thanks for being on the air
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tonight. dave specter is an american who just happened to be over in tokyo during all of this. dave, thank you for joining us over there. you're on skype. i think i'm hearing myself over there as well. >> good afternoon. >> tell me what you went through. >> well, i was in a car at the time and the car started to shake rather violently and you're seeing right now what i took with an iphone that i had. and it seemed maybe it could be the wind but then it was too strong for the wind and we noticed the traffic signals moving and the car just wouldn't stop shaking and this went on and on for at least two minutes. so i got out of the car and noticed people had all left the buildings they were in and looking up expecting something to fall on their heads. it was a frightening scene. and as you mentioned earlier, it it was very -- a disaster. >> wow. how are the people taking it over there, dave?
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are they shook up? i mean, literally shook up, obviously, but are they emotionally scared of another aftershock hitting them or what? it. >> japan is the most earthquake conscious country in the world and they have so many tools in place to help the damage be as small as possible. they have earthquakes all the time. they have an early warning system which actually alerts you to an impending earthquake 30 seconds and as long as a minute before it strikes which means you can perhaps get under a table, it turn off the gas, or leave the building you're in, the house. they're very, very good with earthquakes, if if that's the proper way of saying it. one of this magnitude, there's nothing you could do about it whatsoever. you have to accept whatever fate you have. fortunately people in tokyo, at least, did not see the kind of damage you're seeing on your screen right now. behind me there are some japanese television news channels on, 24 hours a day, and
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they are saying that there are 400 casualties that are known right now and over 700 people unaccounted for and i'm afraid that number is going to increase a great deal today. >> well, this tsunami, are they prepared for the eventuality within 10 or 15 minutes of an earthquake there? this enormous tsunami we're watching, cars floating around like they're made of balsam wood, this swamp of cars and other refuse. i've never seen anything like this thing. was this something we knew was coming after an earthquake of 8.9? >> any large earthquake, even a medium scale earthquake, they issue sthaem warninsue tsunami throughout the period you have to be careful of. it's detailed and particular. people get warnings on their cell phones and television and radio. so they knew that the time of arrival of the tsunami is
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alerted to them precisely. but a lot of people did not get out of the way in time. sometimes it reaches further than was expected. so even though you see a lot of cars being tossed into the water, it does not, of course, mean there are people inside those cars. they did have time to get out safely. that said, there are hundreds of casualties. >> i've never seen cars float that well, by the way. i'm amazed it at this. thank you, dave spector, an american in tokyo there for the history today. when we return, we'll talk to a seismologist about what to expect in the coming hours plus the challenge of cooling down that damaged nuclear reactor. this is opening up all the questions of nuclear energy in this country. you have to bet that the critics of nuclear energy are going to go after this one and say look what happens. "hardball's" coverage of the earthquake, the tsunami, and the whole story, we're going to get back to politics in a few minutes. we have to cover this history. i wanted to you see these pictures. i've never seen anything like it. everyone has someone to go heart healthy for. who's your someone? campbell's healthy request can help. low cholesterol, zero grams trans fat,
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and a healthy level of sodium. it's amazing what soup can do. host: could switching to geico 15% or more on car insurance? host: what, do you live under a rock? man: no way! man: hey rick check this out! anncr: geico. 15 minutes could save 15% or more on car insurance.
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the 8.9 earthquake that hit japan this morning was the strongest ever recorded in the country. japanese officials are trying to get information on a reactor whose cooling system failed in the aftermath. what triggered all this under our earth and what should we expect in coming hours? joining us is frank vernon. jim walsh, a nuclear expert and research associate with mit's security studies program. first to you, mr. vernon. what happened under the earth? has this got anything to do with what happened in new zealand and what might happen now and later.
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>> what happened in japan was a sub duction zone earthquake which created a magnitude 8.9 event which propagated a lot of energy into the shore there. creating a tsunami that you've seen all sorts of information an videos on and provides a lot of damage onshore. >> is there any way, it's like asking what caused this weather. what causes an earthquake? what is the most basic -- give me a basic primer on that. >> basically what you see happening here is that there's a subduction zone. we've got two plates moving together. one under the pacific ocean, it's sliding down underneath japan. it has to break every once in a while and that is a very large event which occurs on several hundred year recurrence intervals, but not unexpected to happen in the long-term.
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>> hold on there. i want to go to jim walsh at m.i.t. about the safety of nuclear energy we know we have an energy challenge. we can't get as much gas as we'd like at the price we'd like certainly. people are looking at nuclear energy to take care of our energy needs, et cetera. is this going to -- does this shake you when you realize that japan has been somewhat unprepared here? >> sure, of course it does because the scale is so large and we're facing -- i don't think the nightmare scenario is going to happen here but it could happen, and the fact that it is even possible gives you pause. i'm less concerned about a japan, a united states. when people talk about a nuclear renaissance, they're talking about the third world, developing countries. think about iran. iran with its brand-new nuclear reactor, how would they handle an 8.9 quake when they are in an earthquake zone. i don't think they'll handle it very well. it does raise fundamental issues
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about nuclear power at least in poor countries, in areas where the earthquakes are a big deal. >> well, we're used to taking precautions with radiation. you go to a doctor's office and you notice that he and his technicians and assistants leave the room when there's an x-ray. we know how to take precautions. is there something in the economics of our society of humanity that they don't take enough precautions, that i'd rather get it online and we're not going to make the major investments necessary to make sure as much as we can, there won't be an accident? >> sure, i think you're right about that, chris. you look at japan, it is the third biggest economy in the world. it's advanced. it has lots of earthquakes. many of its facilities were built to with stand an earthquae but not an earthquake at this level, not an 8.9. why? because people thought, well, that's unlikely. we're not going to spend a ton of money on something highly unlikely and then the day comes when the unlikely thing happens and you're at risk. so there's definitely cost benefit analysis at work that tends to make you not prepare
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for those things that are unlikely but could be catastrophic. >> let's compare this to the situation over there with that facility over there, that nuclear facility we know about today. three-mile island and this issue of the coolant. there was talk earlier today, i was on with andrea mitchell during the daytime around 1:00. there was a lot of talk about the united states would have to speed coolant. and i was thinking why wouldn't the japanese have a sufficient supply of this kind of material if it was necessary to cool down a nuclear reactor? >> well, you're right, chris. i've been talking to a lot of my friends in the business today and they were totally puzzled by clinton's announcement. the deal here is not a lack of coolant, it's a lack of electricity. the deal is if you're going to keep this plant interest having a meltdown or other problems you have to cool it down. and to do that you need electricity to have pumps that are pumping water into that rea reactor so that it will cool down. the problem is the first set of pumps went down, then the backup
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set of pumps that were supposed to run on diesel, they got flooded and they went down. so the real issues are, number one, can they get some sort of electricity to get the pumps going again? if they get the pum turnpikes going again, are they going to run into any other technical issues? they've evacuated people once, twice. there is some concern about that. we'll know in the next 24 hours. this is the critical period. >> jill walsh, thank you. back to frank vernon for one last question, what are the chances of subsidance of the land mass slipping into the sea along the fault? >> it's essentially none. we will have tech tonic motion that moves in slow terms but nothing in the scale of our lifetimes. >> so i can rest assure all my relatives in northern california? >> yep, you can even buy property there. >> that's good news for us tonight. thank you so much, frank vernon, nbc news chief white house
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correspondent chuck todd with president obama's response here in just one minute. what the president is doing. this could be one of those unusual opportunities for good relations between our country and another country. look at this. they need help.
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our thoughts and our prayers are with the people of japan. this is a potentially catastrophic disaster and images of destruction and gladding coming out of japan are simply heartbreaking. today's events remind us of just how fragile life can be. our hearts go out to our friends in japan and across the region and we're going to stand with them as they recover and rebuild from this tragedy. well, that was good work for the country and the world actually as the president -- we're back. that was the president earlier
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today on the massive earthquake we've been watching the last 20 minutes that struck japan. the president has committed two aircraft carriers to help the rescue and recovery effort and he told japan's prime minister the united states will provide whatever assistance the country needs. for more on the president's disaster in japan, let's turn to correspondent chuck todd. you and i don't usually talk about these things but anywnatu has spoken here. an incredible disaster that looked like a disaster film, actually, like something done digitally. but there it is. is this a chance for us to do something good? >> reporter: well, look, it's amazing in this presidency in these two and a half years. brian williams said it during our special report. the amount of different events that have just fallen into the lap of this president in the last two and a half years, some of them having to do with anynae and some of them not. this, of course, with nature. look, japan is america's -- if you were going to rank them, probably the second closest ally after great britain. >> was this a good opportunity for the president to remind
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everybody that he grew up in the united states and hawaii? i thought it was -- that's the first thing i thought of. you know, with all this crazy talk, something like a huge percentage of republicans, maybe they stick it to them, a large people believe they grew up, this coming from huckaby, the misspoken comment by him, the newt gingrich theory. he did it a couple of times this week. didn't he just say the other day we can't agree on everything, for example, i grew up in hawaii. he said that to a republican group. >> reporter: well, that's -- you know, look, do i think they thought this was another chance? no. they called this press conference because they hadn't had an opportunity to speak about gas prices and they realize this is something hitting close to home for a lot of people and they hadn't -- they were looking for a vehicle to do that. that's why they called the press conference, the whole opening statement. this is a case where events just crowded out the whole purpose of the press conference. so, you know, that's an
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interesting theory. it certainly did give an opportunity to remind folks of where he grew up and the folks he grew up with. >> it's pathetic he has to do that. thank you so much, chuck todd. sorry to bring you into our intramural concerns here. this strange critique of him from the right that he's not really one of us that never seems to end. thank you for that great reporting. that's "hardball" for now. thanks for being with us. up next "your business."
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